Common sense needed for bathroom access in schools

When a fifth grade teacher at Coney Island’s Public School 90 recently implemented a reward system for students who don’t use their three allotted bathroom passes in one week, it got attention.  I’ve found a few articles about it.  Parents are enraged.  The school is on the defensive, of course.  I have a feeling the truth lies somewhere in between the accusations the parents are making and the story that the school is releasing.  However, bathroom access for students in school has been an issue probably ever since the first schoolrooms.

There is a balance between meeting students’ needs and meeting classroom needs.  It’s a tricky path for teachers to navigate.  I understand that.  I am fortunate that the only classes I have taught have been at the college level where the students are responsible for what they do and I didn’t have to monitor their bathroom breaks.

Common sense seems to have gone down the toilet in some schools that are denying children bathroom access as needed.

At the same time, I remember my days as a student.  My bladder symptoms started by age 3.  I have always had to go to the bathroom more than the average person.  These days, I literally go more often than my toddler.  I can go to the bathroom and have to go again within 45 minutes.  And I have to desperately go both times.  When I don’t go, I experience pain.

So, here’s my problem with strict school policies: kids have issues.  Some kids have small bladders.  Some kids have nervous bladders.  Some kids have IC like I do.  And some kids are going to have to go just because they are told they can’t.  Sort of like when the “Fasten Seatbelt” light is on during an airplane trip.  You were fine in the minute before the light popped on, but now you’re thinking about it and you have to go.

I understand the argument that says students who have a medical condition and need more frequent bathroom access should bring in a medical note.  But, that’s not always possible.  In many of the cases mentioned above, that wouldn’t work.  Heck, in my own case, I had trouble all through elementary, but it wasn’t until I finally saw a competent urologist in eighth grade that I was actually diagnosed and got a permanent pass from him for bathroom access.  That’s a long time that I could have been denied bathroom access without a diagnosed medical condition (aside from frequent urinary tract infections).

I shudder to think of dealing with this topic when my child goes to school.  I shudder enough that it makes me entertain the idea of homeschooling.  Seriously.  Hopefully she won’t have IC, but even if she doesn’t, I never want her to be forced to hold it.  We are very, very serious around this house about doing everything we can to prevent urinary tract infections.  It started when she was a newborn.  I’m not sure if we were even out of the hospital before I began making sure that all wipes went front to back.  Now that she is potty trained, it’s so ingrained in her already that she says, “Front to back” as she cleans up after going to the bathroom.  Holding urine for too long can lead to urinary tract infections.  They are horrible.  Granted, I’ve never had a UTI in a normal bladder.  I only know them from the perspective of an IC bladder, but they are pure heck.  I know it’s not much better in a normal bladder.  Why take that risk?

The other perspective of this entire situation that bothers me is that good kids are being punished for the misbehavior of a few.  I HATE that almost as much as I hate denial to bathroom access.  I have been there done that soooooo many times.  I was always the good kid.  I hated to get in trouble.  So, I didn’t.  I’ve always been quiet, which translates well into the classroom.  I’ve always been studious and I’ve always had high expectations for myself — both of which worked in my favor in classrooms.  I remember the first time I missed a question on an assignment when I was in first grade.  I came home in tears.  Yep, I was a good student.

And for that reason I was often punished.  Sometimes when we went on field trips my teacher would sit a talkative, annoying, ill behaved child in the seat next to me on the school bus in hopes I’d somehow be a good influence.  It never worked.  All that accomplished was my field trip being ruined.  The same thing would happen in the classroom.  I remember times of struggling to hear the teacher because the Bozo beside me wouldn’t shut up and listen.  He or she would have been the same Bozo who messed around in the bathroom so much or wandered around the school during bathroom breaks that I’d be denied access.

Come on.  There has to be some shred of common sense left in our country and in our school systems.  Even prisoners have the right to go to the bathroom darn near any time they choose.  Dogs go as they please.  But, elementary school (and older!) students are denied access because some dillhole doinked around and now everyone has to suffer.  I’m not for it.  It ticks me off.  And heaven help my child’s teacher should this ever happen to her.  I am a calm, rational, slow-to-anger person, but some things ruffle my feathers.  This is one of them.

What do you think?  Am I a bit over-sensitive here?

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